If you’re planning to drive into the United States later this week to take advantage of the Black Friday deals south of the border, officials on both sides are reminding travelers of what they can expect — and how should they prepare — for the journey.
CTV News Toronto has compiled a list of tips from both border agencies to ensure a smooth crossing into the US and return to Canada.
ENTERING THE UNITED STATES
According to US Customs and Border Protection (CBP), officials are expecting to see an increase in border traffic over the American Thanksgiving weekend and anticipate “some delays” due to the spike in traffic.
“With our traffic numbers beginning to return to normal levels, we do anticipate seeing some increases during this holiday season,” Sharon Swiatek, acting director of the Buffalo Field Office, said in a news release.
GET YOUR DOCUMENTS IN ORDER
Make sure you’ve got your travel documents in order for all members of your group before you reach the border. For non-US citizens, a valid Canadian passport is probably your best bet.
US border agents will also accept trusted traveler program cards such as NEXUS, SENTRI, or FAST.
You can also use an Enhanced Driver’s License (EDL) if you have one. Although the program came to an end in Ontario in June of 2019, you can still use it to cross the US border until it expires.
Canadian citizens under the age of 16 can use a birth certificate or other proof of citizenship to get across. Officials say the birth certificate can be an original, photocopy, or certified copy.
CHECK BORDER WAIT TIMES
To avoid the nightmare of waiting in line at the border, US officials are advising travelers to check wait times before they arrive.
Average wait times and real-time data can be viewed at any of the US’s several Ontario border crossings here or on the CBP’s Border Wait Time app.
Canadian and American flags fly near the Ambassador Bridge at the Canada-USA border crossing in Windsor, Ont. on Saturday, March 21, 2020. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Rob Gurdebeke
TRAVEL AT OFF-PEAK TIMES
If you can, you should travel during the least busy hours of the day to avoid headaches at the border.
According to the CBP, peak travel times are generally between the hours of 10 am to 6 pm
Departing early the morning of or the night before your trip might be a good way to avoid delays.
DON’T TRAVEL WITH CANNABIS
Although it’s legal in Canada, traveling across the border with any kind of cannabis (without a permit or exemption authorized by Health Canada) could get you in serious trouble.
A medical prescription does not count as a Health Canada authorization and oils containing tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) or cannabidiol (CBD) are also off limits.
To view a full list of all the tips and advice provided by the CBP before your trip, click here.
RETURNING TO CANADA
KNOW YOUR PERSONAL EXEMPTION LIMITS
Black Friday deals south of the border won’t mean much if you have to pay an arm and a leg in associated duties and taxes.
That’s why understanding your personal exemption limits and how the length of your absence affects them are key to having a successful trip.
For example, if you’re out of the country for more than 24 hours, but less than 48 hours, you can claim goods up to $200 (excluding tobacco products and alcoholic beverages) without paying duties and taxes.
However, if the value of the goods you are bringing back exceeds that amount within that time frame, you can’t claim the exemption and must pay applicable duties and taxes on the entire amount.
It can get complicated, depending on the length of your trip, so click here to see what exemptions you’re entitled to.
PREPARE TO DECLARE
You should be ready to declare any goods purchased in the States when you arrive at the Canadian border.
Have your receipts ready to show Canada Border Services Agency (CBSA) officers and make sure your items are not gift wrapped as they may be subject to a search.
BORDER WAIT TIMES
Like the US, the CBSA has tools you can use to avoid a long line up at the border upon your return.
“The Mondays of holiday long weekends tend to be the busiest, with longer border wait times,” the federal agency said in a news release.
You can check the wait times at your nearest border crossing here.
Click here to view all the travel tips and advice provided by the CBSA.